When asked how he came to be a Freemason, President McKinley explained:
"After the battle of Opequon, I went with the surgeon of our Ohio regiment to the field where there were about 5,000 Confederate prisoners under guard. Almost as soon as we passed the guard, I noticed the doctor shook hands with a number of Confederate prisoners. He also took from his pocket a roll of bills and distributed all he had among them. Boy-like, I looked on in wonderment; I didn't know what it all meant. On the way back to camp I asked him:
'Did you know these men or ever see them before?'
'No,' replied the doctor, 'I never saw them before.'
'But,' I persisted, 'You gave them a lot of money, all you had about you.
Do you ever expect to get it back?'
'Well,' said the doctor, 'if they are able to pay me back, they will. But it makes no difference to me; they are brother Masons in trouble and I am only doing my duty.'
"I said to myself, 'If that is Masonry, I will take some of it myself.' "
Editor's Note: Conflicting Masonic claims as to when he was raised.
Some reports say Hiram Lodge No. 10 in Winchester, West Virginia in 1865
Some say Hiram Lodge No. 21 at Winchester, Virginia
McKinley later affiliated with Canton Lodge No. 60 at Canton, Ohio in 1867
He received the Capitular degrees in Canton in 1883 and was made a Knight Templar in 1884.
McKinley was the last President to have served in the American Civil War